Hours after a group of Maharashtra MLAs led by dissident Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde reached Assam and were put up in a luxury hotel, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday said that he welcomes all to visit Assam as the state needs revenue to deal with the devastating flood.
He also said, without elaborating, that he will be happy if Assam becomes an "international political epicentre".Guwahati has many luxury hotels and if the rooms are full, "we should be happy as it will bring in revenue. We will earn through GST and we need it during these difficult times of devastating floods in the state", Sarma told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
Altogether 55 lakh people in 32 districts of the North-eastern state are now affected by floods. Eighty-nine citizens have lost their lives due to the calamity.
To a question, he said, "Why should there be a reason for any controversy regarding their visit? We welcome all tourists to visit the state now as we need funds to deal with the floods. Why should we turn away Goddess Lakshmi when most of our hotels are empty or have low occupancy during this period?" Asked whether he will meet the dissident MLAs from Maharashtra, Sarma said that there is no need for him to do that."If I can manage, maybe I will meet them for five minutes. In the meantime, some of my legislator colleagues are in touch with them," he said.
The chief minister said that he is busy dealing with the flood situation and will visit Nagaon on Wednesday and Silchar on Thursday. "I will be happy if the state becomes an international political epicentre. I urge all to visit the state so that we can earn revenue to deal with the situation," he said.
The Maharashtra MLAs reached the BJP-ruled state on Wednesday morning by a charter aircraft from Surat and were taken to a luxury hotel on the outskirts of Guwahati amid tight security.
Shinde, who initially refused to talk to media persons waiting outside the airport, later claimed that he has the support of 46 MLAs.The Shiv Sena asserted that they are "committed to Balasaheb Thackeray's Hindutva ideology and we want to take it forward".The MLAs were taken to Surat from Mumbai on Tuesday and the decision to shift them to Guwahati was taken on security grounds, according to a BJP source.
This is perhaps the first time that MLAs from a Western Indian state is being taken to a Northeastern state after their rebellion against the party leadership.
The Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra is facing a crisis following the revolt by a section of its MLA led by Shinde. Asked why they had come to Guwahati, Shinde said, "It is a nice place".